Farewell to the AJS

You might have missed one of the very few stories about the recent dissolution of The American Judicature Society (AJS), the 101-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to a fair and impartial judicial system. The group’s president blamed the closure on current financial challenges facing AJS and many other nonprofit groups.

Now, AJS’ center for judicial ethics will be located at the National Center for State Courts, and its additional functions will be moved to other groups with similar goals. One AJS hallmark is its strong support for all states to adopt the “Missouri Plan,” a merit-based process for selecting judges rather than popular vote. Even though many states, including Texas, still select judges in partisan elections, others have adopted the Missouri model and now select their judges through nonpartisan judicial commissions.

The idea of selecting judges based on merit has strong support.  Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson frequently requested that the state legislature reform Texas’ system of selecting judges, calling the current system “broken.”  Yet improving the impartiality of the judiciary is often lost among today’s political rancor.  At least one law school professor who was quoted about AJS’ demise labeled the group a “dinosaur,” saying merit-based judicial selection “had run its course . . .”

Fortunately, there are several other organizations and nonprofit groups that are poised to pick up where AJS left off, including the previously mentioned National Center for State Courts. Here’s hoping the AJS goal of merit selection for all the nation’s judges continues, and proves that this is not an idea that has run its course.


Posted: 12/3/2014 1:23:14 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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